Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Rundown - Week 13

We're still two weeks from resuming the regular season schedule in the CIS, so I thought today might be a good time to introduce you, readers, to a couple of international players who are suiting up in the CIS this season. Names like Iya Gavrilova, Sasha Vafina, and Venla Hovi are better known due to their international work, but there are many others playing who you should get to know because they are pioneers in their home nations when it comes to hockey. I've profiled Sojung Shin and Mathea Fischer in previous weeks, so we'll meet two more women today who are looking to break out on the international stage.

A Potential Olympic Host

She was only 15 when she joined the South Korean national team, but Ye Eun Park is out to make the Olympic squad on merit rather than simply due to numbers. She was one of about 100 women playing hockey in Korea when she decided to make the jump to Canada where the defender enrolled in the Ontario Hockey Academy. She spent two years at one of Canada's finest hockey academies where she was given lots of ice-time, and it was at the OHA where she caught the attention of UPEI head coach Bruce Donaldson.

"Clearly the end sight for her is to be able to participate in the Olympics and our goal is to help her get there," Donaldson told Nancy Russell of CBC.

Donaldson also gave Park high praise for her skills on the ice and in the classroom. "Academically she is exceptionally strong," he stated. "And, as a player, her skillset will be an excellent addition to our program. I can see her being paired with one of our senior defence so she can continue to mature in strength and skill. Her work ethic is very impressive."

For Park, her experience in finding UPEI was the same as Shin's experience in finding StFX: she had no idea where the school was. "I actually had no idea about this place," she said. "But then my friends told me it's really pretty here."

Getting to the Olympics is no easy feat when you consider that there are just 177 women playing hockey in South Korea. There are no teams to play on and no leagues to play in, so the women who are serious about making the national team have had to go elsewhere to hone their skills. Korea will be just the third Asian nation to play in the Olympics - China and Japan were the other two - but they have a large deficit to make up in that they are ranked 23rd in the world, much lower than either China or Japan were when they played in the Olympics.

Park was a member of the Korean team that took part in the Division-II Group A World Championships in Dumfries, Scotland at the Dumfries Ice Bowl. They fell 2-0 in their opening game against Kazakhstan, lost 3-1 to Great Britain, and won 4-3 in a shootout against Poland before beating New Zealand by a 3-0 score and decimating Croatia 13-0 in the their final game. All told, Korea went 2-2-1-0 (W-L-OTW/SOW-OTL/SOL) for eight points and a third-place finish behind Kazakhstan and Great Britain, respectively. Park, for her part, contributed a pair of assists in the five games as the Koreans took steps forward on the international stage.

Park is a freshman at UPEI this season, so she's playing behind more experienced AUS players, but she's played in five games with no points and a +1 rating thus far. When you consider that all five of those games were losses for the Panthers by a combined score of 17-5, that +1 is pretty impressive. She'll find more playing time in the years building up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, but the psychology major is looking like she's on the right track to be a major contributor in Korea's program in the near future!

From The Alps To The Rockies

I've already introduced you to Mathea Fischer who plays for UBC, but UBC actually has a couple of international players on the roster this season. While Fischer joined the team from Norway, Laura Trachsel comes to the Thunderbirds from Switzerland where the 21 year-old is a member of the Swiss national team!

Trachsel has been on Switzerland's radar for a long time. She played with the Frauenfeld U15 team for two seasons while splitting time with Frauenfeld U17 from 2007-2009. She was actually a more prolific scorer with the U17 team where she averaged more than a point per game, and that led her to being picked up by a Swiss Women's Hockey League B-Divisio team in HC3ChĂȘne in 2010-11. She would put up 10 goals and 15 points in just 14 games, and that prompted an A-Division team in SC Reinach Damen to sign her for 2011-12. Trachsel wouldn't be there long, though, as she made the jump to SC Weinfelden Ladies where she recorded six goals and eight points in 23 games.

2014-15 saw her suit up for the Swiss national team at the 2015 Women's World Championship in Malmo, Sweden. She played in four games and recorded no points, but Switzerland did advance to the quarter-finals where they lost to Finland by a 3-0 score. UBC head coach Graham Thomas liked what he saw from the fiesty 5'3" forward who wore #51, and recruited her to join the Thunderbirds.

"With time in the top Swiss League and with the Swiss National Team under her belt, Laura will bring us plenty of international experience, along with a great deal of speed and tenacity," Thomas stated. While she has yet to register a point in 11 CIS games, the Swiss national has shown some effective forechecking with that speed.

While she has yet to put her first point on the board, the Arts student is adjusting to the CIS game in terms of the speed and skill, and there's no doubt that head coach Graham Thomas will come to rely on Laura Trachsel's skill in the coming seasons. The Swiss national team should also see benefits as Laura gets better with each game!

See You In January

I highly encourage you to check out the recruits who have agreed to attend the various CIS schools. There are a number of excellent players who have already committed to Canadian universities, and it is encouraging to see the CIS programs getting stronger year after year. Next week, I'll talk about a rule change that came into play in 2013 that allowed schools to do more to not only attract domestic recruits, but international recruits as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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